Russo personally cast Gia Allemand for the film. "It's a small role. Gia looks a lot like Ava, but it's really the passion that she had that convinced me to cast her," says Russo, "Forty years ago someone did this for me. They stuck their neck out."
Allemand admits, "I was pursuing him to cast me as Ava. After I heard about Mr. Russo signing on a napkin for 'The Godfather' (at The Palm in Manhattan in 1969), I recited Ava's whole life to him until he agreed to cast me